The news about Greece’s debt crisis sounded so dire, we almost canceled our family vacation to Athens and Santorini. I’m so glad we didn’t. We arrived in Athens July 8 to find that the economic crisis has had no noticeable impact on tourism. We nervously arrived with waaaaay more cash than we normally carry, expecting the worst. But now, a few days later, we’re feeling carefree, with a glass of Greek wine in one hand and a forkful of olives in the other. Crisis? What crisis?
Tourists Throng Greece
There are throngs of tourists here in Athens, and at all the attractions, restaurants and shops, it’s business as usual. With the exception of one restaurant, we’ve been able to use our chip-implanted credit cards everywhere. None of the tourists we’ve spoken to have faced any obstacles, either.
In fact, the situation might be making Greece an even *better* travel choice for families this summer. The American dollar is strong (almost 1:1 ratio to Euros – outstanding!), which is making everything pretty cheap. And the Greek people – already notoriously nice – seem even more appreciative of tourists. Especially tourists who pay in cash.
Speaking of cash, we’ve seen lines at every ATM in Athens. Banks are closed for the second straight week, and Greeks are limited to withdrawing 60 Euros/day. It’s a sobering site. It reminds you that while this crisis might be no big deal to tourists – there’s no line at our hotel’s ATM – it is a scary time for Greeks.
Access to Cash
We haven’t had to withdraw money yet because we brought so much cash, including pre-purchased Euros – something I recommend travelers do as a precaution.
I have to admit, carrying lots of cash makes me uncomfortable. Like we’re easy robbery targets. But we’ve been smart about dividing up our money in different suitcases and purses, and keeping most of it in the hotel safe when we’re out.
We’re hyper-aware of our surroundings and on the lookout for pickpockets. But there’s been nothing to worry about. We have walked to dinner at night in Athens, visited the touristsy areas, and not felt the slightest bit nervous or fearful. We’re acting the same way we’d act in any big city.
The one place we were told “cash only” was a small taverna where our party of four had a delicious dinner of kebabs, fresh pita, feta cheese, souvlaki and drinks. It wasn’t a problem, because the bill was just $15. That isn’t a typo – $15! We went to a fancier restaurant the next night, where dinner was about $50 (and we had the option to use our credit card). Great deals, and great food, are everywhere.
So if you’re wondering whether to travel with your family to Greece right now, my answer is an emphatic YES. Go! Just follow the U.S. Embassy’s travel advice, bring extra cash, and be extra vigilant.